Onlooker who helped rescue man at North Avenue Beach says new lifeline made all the difference

CHICAGO (CBS) – Tom Pazol was quick to spring into action with a lifeline this week when he saw someone struggling in the water at North Avenue Beach.

Pazol told CBS 2’s Charlie De Mar on Thursday that he hadn’t really thought about it — he knew he needed help. But it was that nearby lifeline along the lake that may have made all the difference.

Pazol normally rises before the sun, capturing breathtaking images. But on Monday at North Avenue Beach, he saw a man in Lake Michigan struggling to catch his breath.

“He was clearly scared and really cold,” Pazol said. “I got up early in the morning. I think they were sort of wrapping up their night.”

The man in distress needed help. He couldn’t get out of the water on his own.

So Pazol, a runner and friend of the man in the water stepped in to help. They threw a lifeline to keep it afloat.

“It bought us time,” Pazol said. “It was just a matter of having enough people there – do we have enough muscle?”

It is now Illinois state law for lifebuoys to be placed along the lake. The legislation was signed just days before the early morning North Avenue rescue.

Maria Diaz pleaded for the rings after her son, Miguel Cisneros, drowned in Rogers Park last summer. Passers-by tried to help, but there was nothing to throw away.

Cisneros was 19 years old. He had recently graduated from St. Ignatius College Prep and was scheduled to move to Columbia University for a full scholarship this fall.

“It makes my grief a little easier, at least for a little while,” Diaz said. “I know now that now Miguel is a guardian angel.”

Back at North Avenue Beach, Pazol and the other bystanders were able to use the lifeline to pull the man to safety, possibly saving a life.

“He was very happy to be out of the water; he was starting to warm up, and he gave the runner and me a big hug, you know.

Paramedics showed up and responded quickly, but the man refused to seek treatment.

Pazol said he would do it again.


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